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Write to Serve: Giving Deeper Purpose to Your Craft

A guest post by Barrie Davenport of Live Bold and Bloom.

Words — so innocent and powerless as they are, as standing in a dictionary, how potent for good and evil they become in the hands of one who knows how to combine them. ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

Why do you write?

If you are a writer, it’s an important question to ask yourself.

Had I asked myself this question a year ago, my answer would have been that I write because it’s my clearest form of communication. I can get my point across, tell a story, or relay information more concisely and intelligently in writing than through the spoken word.

For some reason, my thoughts from brain to paper (or computer) emerge more easily and eloquently than they do from brain to mouth. And happily I can edit myself on paper. Oh my, if I had a dollar for every uttered word that I should have stuffed back into my mouth!

Now that I have started a blog, my feelings about why I write have changed forever.

Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart. ~ William Wordsworth

And I have changed as a person in the process. My blog initially was a temporary web site for my coaching practice. I didn’t have the time or skill to put together a web site, so I found a simple blogging template and created a platform for writing about coaching issues.

I saw my writing as a marketing forum for my business. But then a funny thing happened on the way to that forum. People started responding to my blog. They were getting something from what I was writing. I was receiving e-mails and calls from people telling me that I had helped them or touched them in some way.

I was serving them, whether I intended to or not.

Somewhere along the way, serving people became more important to me than “getting clients.”

I switched my intention from getting to giving. I began to view writing not as tool to make money, but as a creative gift that I could share with others. This mental shift was liberating for me, and now I don’t worry about perfection or impressing others with my writing. I just want to make sure my readers take away something valuable and useful for their lives.

Since my perspective has changed, another amazing thing has happened.

Wonderful gifts have come my way in the form of new friends, new opportunities, new learning, and yes, some new clients too. The best part for me is the feeling of purpose I have around my writing. I feel fulfilled and happy — like I am doing something really good. Getting paid for it will be nice, but at the moment, I see that as secondary. I trust it will come.

Writing can be a lonely business.

When it’s just you and your fingers tapping away at your keyboard, it’s hard to visualize your readers out there and how your words will impact them. Writers spend a lot of time worrying about deadlines and content and sources of inspiration. It can be a very self-focused activity where the rewards often appear long after the work is finished.

Most other creative types get to enjoy the immediate gratification of their patrons’ response and appreciation.

Dancers, musicians, actors, even visual artists can perform their craft and reap the rewards fairly quickly. Writers must plod along, hammering ideas into words with no supportive fans standing behind them shouting, “Well done, bravo!”

As a writer, you must create your own motive and reward for doing the work. When inspiration fails you, when you are tired or bored with writing, what is your raison d’etre? What keeps you going?

If you would like to harness a deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment around your writing work, here are some suggestions you might consider:

  1. Shift your focus. As you begin to write the very first word, shift your focus away from yourself or the thought process of writing and move it to your reader. Ask yourself repeatedly, “How can I serve, and what can I offer my beloved reader?” See the act of writing, not just the finished product, as a gift of love to the world. When you focus on serving, you create a vision for your writing that provides inspiration and direction.
  2. Write from the heart. Be real and authentic in your writing. Open yourself to feeling what your readers might be experiencing and respond to their needs as though you were a trusted friend. Put your reader’s needs first, and let your emotions around those needs guide your ideas and words.
  3. Share personal stories, even if you do that through a fictional character. Draw from your own experiences and be willing to reveal some of your flaws and failures. If people can relate to you, they can grow and learn from what you have to say. We all love a great story!
  4. Be a teacher. People are hungry to learn. Find ways to share new ideas, skills and concepts with your reader without sounding preachy or condescending. Do your research and give them something solid to take away from the experience of reading your writing. Reading for pleasure is great, but reading for pleasure with benefits is even better. I love historical fiction for this very reason.
  5. Lift them up and inspire them. In a world fraught with bad news, ugly and horrifying images, and mean-spirited commentary, become a source of vision and illumination. If you believe in some form of divine intelligence or in just plain goodness, imbue your writing with a heavy dose of it. People crave sources of inspiration and hope. Be one of those sources. Let your writing reflect the best parts of your psyche and soul.
  6. Make them laugh. If you have ever read a book by David Sedaris (Me Talk Pretty One Day and When You Are Engulfed in Flames), you’ve seen how he can transform the most mundane or pathetic life situation into a laugh-out-loud vignette that is wildly entertaining and fun to read. If you are downright funny or even just a little witty, please share that with the world. We need to laugh and see the humor in the inanities of life. It’s good for the soul.
  7. Stay tuned-in and inquisitive. Get out of the house and step away from the computer. Go out and find your readers. Observe and listen to people. Keep a little notebook in your pocket and write down ideas and inspiration you receive from your observations and interactions with people. Ask your readers thoughtful and probing questions about their interests, their worries, and their hopes and dreams. Your readers are your best resource for topics and inspiration, so go out there and meet them.
  8. Leave a legacy. Remember Randy Pausch, the professor at Carnegie Mellon University with pancreatic cancer, who wrote The Last Lecture? His real last lecture at Carnegie Mellon was part of a lecture series where top academics were asked to think deeply about what matters to them and give a hypothetical final talk.For Randy, knowing he had a short time to live, it wasn’t hypothetical. His real motivation was to leave a legacy for his children. I don’t mean to sound morbid, but shouldn’t we all have that motivation?

What will be your legacy?

Is your writing part of that? If so, then write every day like it is your last lecture and leave the stamp of your creative service on the world.

This is a guest post written by Barrie Davenport, a life and career coach and founder of Live Bold and Bloom, a blog about fearless living.

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45 thoughts on “Write to Serve: Giving Deeper Purpose to Your Craft”

  • “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart.”

    Beautiful. Thanks for this thought-provoking post!

  • Raam Dev says:

    “As you begin to write the very first word, shift your focus away from yourself or the thought process of writing and move it to your reader.”

    This advice seems so basic, but it’s a lot more difficult than it seems! Changing perspectives while simultaneously accessing your own brain to get words written down is an art that requires constant practice!

    I have discovered that leaving out our own ego and simply writing from the heart is the best way to make this happen. While writing, think “give, give, give” and “share, share, share”, instead of “I hope this will be good” or “will they think that sounds weird?”, etc.

    Thanks for this great post!

  • Thank you for your lovely comments. I agree, Raam, that writing from your heart is always a gift. If the reader senses this, I think they will feel served.

    Barrie

  • Mary, you hit it on the head here. Writing is a lonely business and “why” is a good question to ask. I began blogging because I wanted it to become a business. I haven’t made any money, have several blogs, and still keep writing. So, it has to be a deeper reason the the initial mercenary one. Good question to ponder over the weekend.

  • Mike,

    You have something valuable to say in your writing, and I’m sure that’s one reason you keep at it. Keep sending that gift out there, and have your eyes open to the gifts you receive in return.

    Thank you for your comment!

    Barrie

  • Barrie – Great article! For those of us that are addicted to writing, it definitely comes from deep within. Writing isn’t always easy, but it is always satisfying. I write because I want to give others hope. I want to inspire them and help them to believe a great life is possible. There is way too much negativity in our world. I want to be a voice helping to spread a positive message. As you say, this is very needed. Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

  • Hi Jeff,

    Nice to see you over here! We need more writers like you Jeff. Positive words create positive thoughts, and that’s the start of a huge mind shift. Keep those uplifting words coming. Looking forward to your post on Live Bold and Bloom!

    Barrie

  • Nice post Barrie, and nice site as well. I think my best writing comes from answering the question “How can I make an impact with this initial idea?”

    Thanks for this inspirational post!

  • Thanks Joe! I’m so glad you liked it. Yes, we are filled with great ideas that can morph into useful and valuable writing. That’s a great way to look at it!

    Barrie

  • Ritergal says:

    Thank you Barrie, for this affirming post, further confirming what I’ve come to believe. I’ve had a similar experience with my blog about writing. I started the blog to sell the book I was writing, and that intention has been helped along. But like yours, the blog has become much, much more. Increased readership and book sales are icing on the cake. If a single reader learns something about writing or feels inspired to get those fingers moving, I’ve achieved my purpose. Besides, I also write because that’s what I do, who I am.

  • I have had the same experience as you describe. Through my blog, I finally feel that I am contributing something with my talent. I love how you describe being a writer. This is a very encouraging post for those of us who feel compelled to write, but sometimes wonder “what’s the point?”

  • Thank you Ritergal and TravelinOma for your thoughtful comments. You never know how many people out in the blogosphere you have touched with your writing. The beauty of blogging is that you can reach so many people. You have most likely changed someone’s mind, brightened their day, moved them forward, given them hope, or inspired them in some way. You may not know it directly, but the odds are tremendous that it has happened.

    Please keep writing to serve. It is what you do to make a contribution in this world!

    Barrie

  • elaine lamontagne says:

    Great article, Burgess … purpose combined with happiness is profound and blissful.

  • ajuas says:

    Its really a nice article.. Hope you will write these type of articles again..

  • So glad you liked it Ajuas!

  • Thanks Barrie for your great article and for introducing me to this blog.
    You inspire me to contribute my own article about an awesome writer’s group I belong to called “The Slippery Pen” and a terrific product we really want out there called “Deal a Story” that we have used in Slippery Pen. As we write, so we grow more fully into our authentic selves. Such a win-win.

  • Hi Cleone,

    So glad you check out this blog. Mary Jaksch and Leo Babauta, the blog’s founders have other great blogs that you should look at as well. They are both beautiful writers! Mary’s is http://www.goodlifezen.com and Leo’s is http://www.zenhabits.net.

    These two are at the top of personal growth blogs and have taught me so much about writing and blogging. I am indebted to them — and to you for believing in my writing!

    Blessings,
    Barrie

  • Jeanne says:

    Lovely article, Barrie! I’m not much of a writer, but think that most of your writing suggestions could be applied to how I would like to live my life and interact with others.

  • Thanks Jeanne! Yes, they can apply to any work or passion. If you see your work as service, it becomes more than just a task. It becomes part of your life vision.

  • DShan says:

    Despite the fact that it wasn’t your purpose, this is one of the best pieces I’ve ever read on how to grow as a personal blogger.

    Derek
    @dshanahan
    @20SB

  • Elizabeth says:

    Thanks again Barrie for redirecting my moneky mind brain. You continue to offer your clients, and readers, a gentle but powerful one-two punch that pushes us back into proper realignment! One World Rituals is truly about being of service and yes, the money will come.

  • Dshan,

    Wow, thank you so much for your generous comment. I have certainly grown as a blogger, and if this post helps other bloggers, then that is now part of my purpose!

    Elizabeth,

    So happy to see you here! You have always been about service. Hope to talk with you soon.

    Love,
    Barrie

  • Marci says:

    Barrie, thank you for this article. I do feel like writing is lonely and long for some feedback. I have been looking for inspiration. Wanting to be less mechanical, more personal in my writing. I think your article is one I will refer back to.

    I, too, started my blog to launch a supplemental coaching service to my practice. The blog has been something for me to sort out what I can offer others. It is great to watch the transformation in others as well as ourselves. Here’s to continued growth and learning.

    • Marci,

      Thank you so much for your thoughtful reply. This Write to Done blog is a great resource for you. There are so many great articles on writing. If you haven’t taken it, I would highly recommend Leo Baubata’s and Mary Jaksch’s A-List Blogging Bootcamp. I learned soooo much about blogging and writing from the bootcamp. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I think you can link to it by clicking on Leo’s free download report on this page.

      Best to you!
      Barrie

  • Jeni says:

    Beautifully said, Barrie! So interesting the journey life has in store for us, isn’t it? So happy that you’ve found the perfect path that matches your talents with your passions. Looking forward to your next installment!

  • Thank you Jeni! Back at you. We’ve found our way of serving.

  • Jenny says:

    Barrie, this was a very touching and inspirational article. In my youth I was a dancer and the audience’s reaction was immediate and you knew exactly how you did at that time. As I am new to blogging I found your words rang so true; “writing is a lonely business”. Your ideas on the deeper sense of purpose and fulfillment will help me reach my sense of purpose. Thank you.

  • Jenny,

    I am so glad the article resonated with you. My daughter is a dancer too, and she commented that dancers train and rehearse for weeks without getting the applause. But at least they get the feedback from the teachers and other artists. Writing is about as solitary as it gets!!

    I hope you keep blogging!

    Barrie

  • Hi Barrie,

    Loved your article. I want to start writing and what you said will help me get over some roadblocks. Thank you, adrienne

  • JMM says:

    This is one of the best posts I’ve seen on blogging. The power of a blog is that it gives us a platform for touching our readers. You’ve given us a sense of direction on how to do that. Thanks.

  • Hello! How cool! You are inspiring me to get a blog of my own…hmmm…
    Kelly

  • JMM and Kelly,

    Thank you for your kind comments! Yes, blogging is a wonderful way to touch other people. Kelly, I hope you do start a blog of your own. I’d love to read it!

    Best,
    Barrie

  • Barrie, what an inspirational and useful article! As some of the other commentators have said, this is indeed one of the most useful and inspirational articles about beginning to write.

    For me, the moment I shift away from myself and view my writing as my legacy then everything changes.

    I get energised to write useful and inspirational articles more often and writing becomes a joy.

    Thanks also for the wonderful quote from William Wordsworth.

    “Fill your paper with the breathings of your heart”

    • Thank you my friend! You have been an inspiration to me too. You have been writing to serve for a long time. I hope anyone reading this will visit Arvind’s blog called Make It Happen. It is truly inspirational.

      Best to you Arvind!
      Barrie

  • Levi W. says:

    man this is really helpful. This site has helped me so much. check out my blog if you’re interested at http://thehatlist.wordpress.com/ and leave some comments!!

  • Jim Dowd says:

    Ta ever so much Barrie. I’m the newest of the new as I’ve just joined. Not even got my own blog site yet. Not even sure how to go about it but I enjoy writing semi-serious stuff, sort of part Spiritual, part economics. Hell the world is in an enormous mess and may not have the nous to get out of it. That’s the sort of stuff I’m interested in.
    Jim

    • Levi and Jim,

      So glad you enjoyed the post and thank you for your kind comments. Keep up the writing, and Jim, if you love writing, a blog is a great way to share your thoughts and philosophy. Have you joined the A List Blogging Bootcamp that Mary Jaksch and Leo Babauta host? It is wonderful for anyone looking to start a new blog or improve an existing one. Read about it at http://www.alistbloggingbootcamps.com.

      Barrie

  • rdl says:

    A writer writes…always. (throw momma from the train).
    Thanks for the inspirational post.

  • Hi Barrie,

    I think you hit the nail on the head when you talk about leaving a legacy. That’s exactly what drove me back to blogging whilst learning the intricate art of writing both here and in our Blogger Club :-)

    See you soon
    Luc

    • Thank you Luc. I really enjoy your Legacy blog. It is really inspirational and provides great ideas for the rest of us bloggers! Look forward to seeing you in the Club!

      Barrie

  • Nelfra.com says:

    Hello. Almost seven years ago, I started writing articles and sending them to everyone in my community. They appreciated it; and reading those articles has become part of their day-to-day routine. They tell me that those articles help them and they even quotes the things I write. I’m glad I started doing that.

    Now, i have decided to create a blog which, hopefully, could inspire other people. I’m a simple person, really, who puts meaning to a lot of things I encounter. :)

  • Clive says:

    Ive been looking for a website to write on for the past two years; things always seem to come when thought having forever been lost – not attainable. But today i write on this website, relaying my thoughts as if drawn to thinking them for this one purpose alone; lets see who reads this simple note… for if you have; then i say hie to you; for you took time to read my work as well.

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